Should You Try the FODMAP Diet?

low-FODMAP

Are you following a gluten-free diet but still experiencing digestive discomfort? In the past several years research has emerged suggesting that people with gluten intolerance (aka NCGS or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) may not just be sensitive to gluten but also sensitive to certain poorly digested carbohydrates called FODMAPS. Also, some people with lactose intolerance or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have found that their symptoms lessen when avoiding FODMAP foods.

What is FODMAP? FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. First brought to light by an Australian research team, FODMAPS can be problematic in people with IBS or existing digestive issues as they are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and rapidly fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and gas.

Oligosaccharides (fructans and/or galactans) are found primarily in wheat, rye, beans, peas, pulses, onions and garlic.

Disaccharides are found in lactose, the natural carbohydrate of milk, soft cheeses and yogurt.

The main monosaccharide is fructose, the natural carbohydrate in fruit, honey, and high fructose corn syrups.

Polyols are sugar alcohols but are also found naturally in some fruits and vegetables such as peaches, plums, mushrooms and cauliflower

The general approach taken by dietitians who prescribe a low FODMAP diet is as an elimination diet. Most health professionals agree that you would have to test the Low FODMAP diet for at least 6 weeks and then if symptoms have improved, start adding back foods from each category to see what you are really not tolerating.

It is important to note that a low FODMAP diet is not for everyone. It is very complex and if you aren’t familiar with these types of carbohydrates, it can be difficult to follow as the list of prohibited foods seems quite random. Also, since this is a relatively new field of research, there is still ongoing debate between different organizations as to the definitive list of high FODMAP foods.

Below is a general summary of high and low FODMAP foods that most resources agree on. This is for informational purposes only – if you think you could benefit from following a low FODMAP diet, be sure to visit a health professional for a confirmed diagnosis before embarking on this complex diet.

TP FODMAP chart

This is quite a list, and it’s just a sampling of the full list! As I mentioned, this is a diet that is very very difficult (and not recommended) as a DIY diet. However if you have IBS or are feeling frustrated with your digestive health and don’t know what to do, this could be a solution. You can read more on the FODMAP diet using the resources below, or ask your doctor/nutritionist about it. Good luck!

Sources:
Monash University
Stanford Health Care 
Well Balanced Food Life Travel

 

DSC01005Lea Basch is a registered dietitian and has been in the nutrition industry for over 30 years, most of which she spent at Longmont United Hospital in Boulder, Colorado, where she was one of the founders of the facility’s nutrition program. Longmont’s Planetree philosophy of caring for the body, mind and spirit of patients is very much in line with Lea’s interest in both traditional and alternative therapies for treating chronic illnesses. Gluten-intolerant herself, Lea now focuses much of her time on the latest research and issues relating to gluten-free diets and other food intolerances. She is a diabetes educator and is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. Lea’s lifelong passion has been combining the science of nutrition with the heart that it takes to change lifelong habits.

Lea received her BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics at Florida International University and BA in Education at University of Florida. Ask Lea your nutrition questions at DearLea@tastefulpantry.com

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  1. My wife, also a registered dietitian, has experienced a literally life-changing experience thanks to the low FODMAPs diet. On our honeymoon, she was in so much pain due to gas and bloating that we were about to check into a hospital – and it was not parasites or food poisoning, but simply the mal-absorbed carbohydrates – FODMAPs.

    After only a few days on the diet, she felt better than she had in years. As Lea says, this is not a simple diet, and certainly not everyone will have these results, but the diet has been such a huge shift for us that we’ve decided to launch a food company to cater to people with IBS and food sensitivities. We’re starting by creating the world’s first protein bar that’s designed to be low in FODMAPs. Those interested can check it out here:

    http://fodmapbar.com